Publisher: Ellora’s Cave
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Date: April 17, 2008
Not many people live their dream, but I’ve been incredibly lucky. I’m Anna Tietjens, and I work as a tour leader for Wanderlust Adventures.
My current tour is through incredible India. It should be a breeze, except my younger sister is joining in New Delhi. Things are not exactly civil between us—a childhood full of upheaval didn’t help—and our parents have insisted she travel with me or not at all. I see fun times ahead. Now my boyfriend has turned up without warning. Don’t get me wrong. I really like Sebastian Brady. The sex is good, spectacular even, but meeting a few times a year is enough. I mean I’m not looking for love or happy ever after.
But worst of all is the bad luck I’ve been having recently. One of my passengers died in Syria, and now it looks like my co-driver might have to leave the tour. Despite the exotic location, it’s not exactly smooth sailing, and I’m starting to think someone is out to halt the tour…
When I arrived back at the hotel, I bumped into Rosa Mancuso, one of the passengers who had traveled with me from England. Literally. She went flying, knocked off balance by my determined strides. Chagrined by my daydreaming, I extended my right hand to help her up off the ground. “Sorry! I was miles away.”
“No problem. Two of the new passengers have arrived,” Rosa chirped in her distinct Australian twang while dusting off her butt. The attractive glow in her cheeks highlighted her good health while the tight T-shirt and denim skirt showcased a stunning figure. She bounced up and down, and I guessed she had more news to impart. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to hear.
“My sister?” I was so not looking forward to dealing with my sister’s tantrums. Although we hadn’t seen each other for over nine months, I doubted the passage of time would improve our relationship.
“If your sister is Elizabeth.” She scrutinized me closely, drawing comparisons. I resisted the need to squirm. I should have become used to it by now. I’m on the petite side and blonde while Elizabeth is tall and willowy with a mane of stunning ebony curls that she usually wore loose. “You don’t look like sisters.”
“I take after my father’s side of the family. They say I look like my grandmother when she was my age.” I changed the subject, not wanting to discuss my family. Unfortunately, Elizabeth’s arrival meant family stuff would intrude whether I wanted it or not. I’d tried to tell my parents, but they’d laid on the guilt trip, applying subtle pressure until I’d folded. I scowled at my sandal-clad feet. My parents were good at that. Sighing inwardly, I glanced back at Rosa. “Do you know if the new passengers have checked in yet?”
“They’re in reception now. Evidently there’s a mess-up with the rooms.” Rosa grasped my arm, halting my departure for reception. “You should see the other passenger,” she cooed, her dimples flashing. “He’s gorgeous. Tall. Dark blond hair. Super sexy. We’re going out for drinks after the group meal tonight.”
“Sounds great.” Oh heck. Sounded like trouble to me. If Rosa was this excited, the other girls on the tour would be just as interested in the new passenger. I hoped the other male passenger was ordinary in the looks department and wouldn’t present any trouble. I had more than enough of that as it was.
“Anna, you should see him. He…he’s just soo cute! And his butt. It makes a girl want to bite.”
Oh joy! “I’d better go and say hello to the new passengers,” I said, backing away from Rosa’s enthusiastic descriptions of his luscious body. This man didn’t sound cute—he sounded like a problem.
Girls crowded the reception area. Every single one of my female passengers stood around a Brad Pitt look-alike. I took a closer look. Maybe Brad’s brother. He towered over the girls and our gazes met when I pushed my way into reception.
I walked up to him and stuck out my right hand. “Hi, I’m Anna Tietjens, the tour leader.”
“Hello, Anna.” Like smooth whiskey, his husky voice poured over me, and I had difficulty suppressing a shudder of awareness. The male was potent, I’d give him that. No wonder the girls were hovering around him like a pack of hungry sharks.
A sharp cough jerked my attention to the person standing behind him. Elizabeth. Oh shoot. I’d stuffed up by not saying hello to her first. “Hi, Elizabeth.” I closed the distance between us, mentally castigating myself all the while. Great way to start. Absolutely perfect. I tried for an enthusiastic hug.
Elizabeth let me hug her but stood stiffly in my embrace. Unyielding. My cheeks heated when I realized everyone, both passengers and hotel staff, watched us. I let my hands fall to my sides, stepped back and forced a smile. “It’s great to see you.”
Nothing had changed. Elizabeth still resented me. If anything, her reaction was worse than usual because my parents had insisted the only way she could travel overland was if she went on a tour I led. Elizabeth read that to mean they didn’t trust her. Quite frankly I didn’t blame my parents after hearing about some of my sister’s hijinks back home in New Zealand—staying out all night drinking and running around with the wrong crowd. Bad boys attracted Elizabeth, and unfortunately, I had a few of those on the tour. Just my luck my parents had made me the meat in the middle of the parent versus child sandwich.
“Anna.” Elizabeth sounded distant and my embarrassment heightened. I didn’t like our family laundry displayed in public. “Mum and Dad said to say hello. They sent birthday cards. Nana sent a letter for you. I have it in my bag.”
“Great. I’ll see what the hold up is with your rooms and help with your luggage.” I turned to the interested bystanders. “I’ll see you at six for drinks in the bar before we head out for dinner. We can do the introductions then.” Taking my unsubtle hint, the rest of my passengers drifted from reception leaving Elizabeth and my Brad Pitt look-alike.
After a brief smile at both, I turned to the receptionist and took a deep breath, ready to finesse rooms. “Is there a problem with the rooms?”
The young man bobbed his head in the typical Indian manner that always made me smile. I’d tried to emulate the action—a rocking motion from side to side—but the move was much harder than it looked. “No,” he said.
“Then why can’t you let them into their rooms now?” A reasonable question.
The man beckoned me closer and whispered, “They are not married.”
“No,” I said.
“They cannot have a room.”
Oh! “No, they’re not sharing a room,” I said in a firm voice. “They need two rooms.”
“Only one room left,” the man said, bobbing his head again.
Bother. “Do you have another camp stretcher?”
“Yes. Yes.” The man sounded more eager now that a solution was forthcoming.
“The lady will share my cabin and the man will share the room with the male passenger who hasn’t arrived yet. The camp stretcher will need to go in my cabin.”
“Anna,” Elizabeth hissed. She moved closer and tapped me on the shoulder. “I don’t want to share a room with you.”
“I know. Just for tonight, okay?” In the interest of peace, I decided to drag Carmichael into the conversation. “Have you met my sister, Elizabeth?”
“Yes.” Carmichael winked at her, making my heart sink. It sank even farther when I caught the flirtatious smile she returned. “We bumped into each other at the airport and shared a taxi to the hotel.”
“Oh. Ah, that’s great,” I said. “We’re having drinks at six, and I’ve organized dinner at a local restaurant afterward.”
“You’ve told us already,” Elizabeth snapped. “We’re not children.”
I took a deep breath, rapidly counting to ten and biting back the tart reply hovering on the tip of my tongue. Slowly, the breath eased out. “So I did. The cabin is this way. See you later, Carmichael.” I walked over to the door and opened it so Carmichael could leave without struggling with his bags. Once he was safely through, I let the door swing shut and turned to my sister. “Ready to go?”
With a long-suffering sigh, Elizabeth picked up her daypack and frowned at me. “Aren’t you going to help me with my bags?”
“Thanks,” she said before strolling through the door with her daypack slung over her shoulder. She left her bulging backpack for me and didn’t think to hold the door open. A curse whispered past my lips, not loud enough for anyone else to hear but enough to make me feel better.
I picked up the pack, lurching unsteadily for a few steps until I reached the door. Turning my back to the door, I backed out while dragging the backpack after me. The door yanked open without warning, and I toppled off balance, the weight of the backpack sending me toward the ground. A squeak of surprise erupted, but before I hit the tiled floor, a pair of masculine hands seized my waist. My heart thudded in an erratic manner, only easing when I was sure my feet were on firm ground. I dragged in a huge breath and caught a hint of sandalwood and patchouli. Hmmm, I wasn’t sure who my rescuer was but he smelled wonderful. I let the pack drop to the floor and turned to thank my savior.
Shock kicked me square in the gut and my smile died. “Sebastian,” I croaked. “What the hell are you doing here?”
We were late, which pissed me off, but once again I cut my sister some slack and kept my thoughts to myself. Darkness had fallen and the outside lighting had switched on in the hotel gardens. When we rounded the corner, the rest of the group was waiting for us outside the hotel reception. The girls clustered around the two new male arrivals. It didn’t look as if they were worried too much about us being late.
Sebastian smiled when he saw me, said something in a low tone to the girls he was speaking with and walked toward me, intent clear on his face. Oh shit. He intended to stake a public claim. I didn’t think so. Hurriedly, I yanked out my figurative work hat and slammed it on my head.
“Sorry I’m late everyone. If you bear with me for a couple of minutes, I’ll organize tuk-tuks.” I took off at a jog, hoping Sebastian wouldn’t follow. I wanted a private confrontation, not one in front of the group. The idea of being the subject of gossip didn’t hold much appeal.
I sent the tuk-tuks off with three passengers in each. Unfortunately with thirteen passengers that left one passenger to travel with me. Somehow Sebastian managed to be that passenger.
Sebastian let me enter the tuk-tuk first. He slid across the upholstery seat and ended up sitting way too close for comfort. His jeans-clad thigh crowded mine, but when I squeezed farther across the seat, he followed.
“Quit that,” I whispered so the driver didn’t overhear. He’d showered because his dark hair looked damp and his cheeks were freshly shaven. He smelled of sandalwood again. Part of me wanted to lean close and breathe deeply.
“I’m a large man, honey. Not much room in a tuk-tuk.”
Ooh! I looked him straight in the face then. I should have guessed he wouldn’t play fair, amusing himself with sexual innuendoes. “Really?” I asked, playing it cool even though I felt my face turn pink. “And yet the others have three passengers in each.”
“As I said, cramped.” His lazy smile really got me. I leaned toward him before I remembered I was angry, irritated because he’d intruded in my life when we’d had no plans to meet. Jerking away, I stared eyes front, idly watching the lights in the store windows and the people and traffic on the street while we headed for the restaurant I’d booked for our group meal.
“What’s your real name?” I asked.
“Does it matter?”
“Of course it freaking matters. I’d like to know the name of the man I’ve been sleeping with during the last year.”
“Because it means more than sex.” Satisfaction coated his words.
“Dammit, Sebastian! What the hell is your name? Are you traveling on a false passport or is Thomas Montgomery your real name?”
Sebastian moved closer and spoke in an undertone. “In my line of work it’s expedient to have several identities.”
“But I thought you were a businessman—an accountant. That’s what it says on the paperwork for your visa.”
“Yes, it does,” he said.
I heard a “but” after his sentence. “Who the hell are you?” I demanded.
“If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you.” His whole demeanor was one of humor and joking.
“Stop acting childishly,” I snapped. “I’m not in the mood.”
“Pity.” I felt his gaze on me before he started to speak again. “I used to be army—Special Air Services. I retired from the SAS and went into private work.” Sebastian paused before adding, “I wanted to choose my battles.”
“I don’t understand.” The word mercenary jumped to mind and I turned to him, studying his expression closely in the dim light.
“I guess you’d call me a mercenary, sweetheart.” His gray eyes were laser sharp, slicing and dicing. He wasn’t joking. Shit, he really wasn’t joking.
“But your visa paperwork says you’re an accountant,” I repeated. Dumb, I know, but my mind refused to travel past that point.
“Because briefcases are great places to hide guns,” Sebastian said.
I blinked and he grimaced.
“Sorry, bad joke. I use the accountant as cover because that’s what I studied at university before I decided it bored me and joined the army.” Sebastian lifted his hand and cupped my face. “I’ve missed you.”
My stomach twisted at the tender tone, the touch of his calloused fingers. I’d missed him too. Seeing him again brought the fact home. I inhaled deeply, trying to ease my thudding heart. A mistake. Sebastian filled my world—his scent, his touch.
“What do I call you?” I whispered.
I swallowed, closing my eyes to block the intensity of the moment. I wanted him so badly, the touch of his lips, the sensual trail of his fingers across my naked body. “I—”
The tuk-tuk pulled up outside the Olive Bar & Kitchen, the restaurant I’d chosen for our group meal. I reached for the money I’d placed in my jeans pocket to pay for the ride, but Sebastian handed over several rupee notes. He climbed out, his body gorgeous and sexy in his jeans and gray cotton shirt. I followed, every inch of me ultra aware of his presence. I knew I couldn’t carry on this way, but for the moment I indulged myself, wallowed in the sensations.
“Call me Sebastian,” he murmured before we joined the others waiting at the restaurant entrance. “It’s my real name, sweetheart.” He caught my hand and squeezed lightly before releasing it. Enough pressure to gain my attention and make me look at him. Smiling, he brushed a lock of hair from my face. “I’ve never lied to you.”
My heart thumped for three hard beats before settling back into a normal rhythm. He held my gaze the whole time, his gray eyes intent, shining with truth.
“Yeah. I should score points for that.”
“What a splendid read Wanderlust was. If you are looking for adventure, romance, suspense and plain old fun than Shelley Munro’s latest Wanderlust is the book for you….Shelley Munro is brilliant in her writing style. I didn’t have a clue about the identify of the killer until they were ready to reveal themselves….. Shelley Munro, my hat is off to you on a wonderful novel in Wanderlust.”
~ Fallen Angels Reviews.
“Ms. Munro takes you to visit many places you most likely have never been to. I savored my trip through steamy and spicy India as the author’s beautiful descriptions were perfect for enjoying each exotic destination….Wanderlust comes across as a breath of fresh air for readers of romantic suspense. Definitely a fast and fun read if you want a heady trip without a ticket!”
~ Literary Nymphs.
“The plot is fantastic, a real whodunit, and the identity of the murder unknown right up until the end…. Shelley Munro is an extremely talented writer, and I will not hesitate to read more of her work.”
~ Coffee Time Romance.